Friday, May 27, 2016

The Book of Speculation and The Mermaid Girl by Erika Swyler

This book and short story were provided free from St. Martin Press for an honest review.

When Courtney from St. Martin Press contacted me about potentially reviewing a book with a mermaid tale I immediately agreed. Between my 2016 Reaching Challenge forging ahead full steam and my love of all things magically mermish I knew I wanted to dive right in. 

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler  chronicles the family curse laid upon the generations of mermaids and fortune tellers that are born into Simon and Enola's salt water infused bloodline. As a date fore told to be a harbinger of death looms nearer, Simon delves into the only clues in his nail bitten hands: a two century old carnival ledger, a name jotted inside the cover and the wizened old book antiquarian who sent it to him. 

The story unfolds from both Simon's modern day point of view as well as the 1700's mute Wild Boy who traveled in that very same carnival that Simon holds the history of in the weathered book. 

The book itself is beautiful. A black cloth covered hardback with copper embossing and deckle edged pages. The jacket foreshadows the haunting mystical feel of the story within the pages. 

I read the book within a few days and it held my attention and mind and emotions the entire way through. Erika artfully painted a poignant landscape that originated on the New England coast with a crumbling house upon a sea cliff and a cast of full bodied characters with dark wit, depth, shades of melancholy and unique abilities. Horseshoe crabs, tarot cards and the call of the water make beautiful metaphors and carry their burnished threads throughout the tale of these haunted beautiful women in a matriarchal line who can hold their breath for such a long time that being a mermaid in a carnival comes naturally. With the gift of breath holding comes the mystical knack for telling fortunes via the cards, untimely demise and alluring magnetism to men's hearts that is all-consuming. 

I would highly recommend this story as a brilliant summer read, especially if you enjoyed Water For Elephants, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, or The Red Tent

"The Mermaid Girl" is a short story prequel to The Book of Speculation and delves into Simon's early childhood through his mother's eyes. I did read it before the book and it helped me to understand Simon and Enola's history a bit better, but I also want to read it again now that I know exactly what she was struggling with a bit more clearly. 

Does this sound like a book you would enjoy? What do you plan on reading this summer? 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Olfactif Artisan Perfume Subscription: May

Spring has arrived for many, bringing golden pollen on the breeze, green buds on spare branches and bright lilies and flowers abound. Here in my neighborhood it is more about summer already. The grass is thirsty and brown, the sun at its zenith scorches the skin and June bugs emerge from whatever hidey hole that they metamorphosized within. Thankfully I have this springy May box of scents from Olfactif to remind me of what spring can be like in other climates. The subscription is still $18/month with an $18 discount for any fragrance featured in that month's box.

Spring by Dasein- Notes include: Vetiver, violet, sandalwood, rose, yuzu, black pepper.
I sampled Dasein's Winter fragrance and fell head over heels. When I saw another Dasein seasonal scent I could not wait to wear it. Spring has this incredibly bright verdant juice and it echoes the scent perfectly. Translucent lime green sap, both peppery and electric awaken the senses. Razor sharp blades of grass cut through the womb of soil to greet the white hot sun. The biting and bracing vetiver and pepper ease but never depart as violets and paperwhites and bulb flowers of all varieties bloom in time lapse frames, moving to the forefront. The grasses and wildflowers fade back into the earth, leaving behind arid impressions and viridescent ghosts. $95 for a full bottle.

Notes of Sauvignon Blanc by Kelly & Jones- Notes include: Yuzu grapefruit, starfruit, green apple, camellia. 
Kelly & Jones dedicates their fragrance line to compliment various types of wines. Notes of Sauvignon Blanc sketches out the tell tale crisp, dry and refreshing notes of the wine wonderfully. Yuzu and carambola blend to create the illusion of passionfruit and dragonfruit, tropical and plump. Carambola, or starfruit, also lends a pear nectar sweetness that balances the tart green apple. Camellia blossoms mimic the grapefruit and cream vibe that magnolias carry within their flower's heart. The fragrance dries down to a light oakmoss and musk flavor. A full bottle is $50, and with the $18 off coupon code, is quite a steal.

Hansa Yellow by DSH Perfumes- Notes include: Lemon essence, green banana peel, Tunisian neroli, grandiflorum jasmine, ylang, ylang, orange blossom, butter, Tahaitian vanilla, Australian sandalwood.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz debuted a CHROMA line that ties artist palette pigments to scent. Hansa, or arylide yellow, is a yellow toned beige-tan shade that is pretty much dead on to the color of the perfume's liquid. Lemon rinds and banana peels, sweet and mellow set the tone as they merge with piquant neroli and tropical ylang ylang. At this point in the fragrant painting the yellow is more like bright aureolin or colbalt yellow rather than tan. Eventually the brightness blends into softness when the banana peels begin to bring images of cured tobacco, clear vanilla and creamy sandalwood. The dry down lingers in the true Hansa yellow shade of vanilla sandalwood musk. A pleasure to experience and wear all the shades of the sun. A full bottle is $100 on Olfactif.

I have another brand new Olfactif box, in this month's subscription to giveaway. I will be including it as part of a much larger Two Year Blogiversary Giveaway that will be posted on May 28th. If you would like to try this month's box, be sure to enter. 

Which one of these scents in the May box calls to you? My personal favorite was Notes of Sauvignon Blanc. I could see myself wearing this tropical fruity and heady magnolia beauty all summer. And hey, for $38 it hits the wallet nicely too. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Melting Basket 66: Husband's Choice

Well... it certainly has been a while. I normally move through my baskets much faster than this but the past couple of weeks have been a doozy. I will elaborate below. In the mean time, let's get this shindig started. Wax from the last basket I would buy again include: TBG Lemon Curd & Rose Milk, Ruby Chandelier, The Fortune Teller, Glitterati Island Peach, LSC Lemon Shortbread Cookies, Lemon Butter Crunch Cake, Rosegirls Rosegirls Garden/Raspberry Sauce/VBN, VCS Queen Anne's Lace, CFTKR Summer Strawberry Taffy

I asked in the last melting basket post what type of basket I should build next. I did get some requests and I will make sure I get to them all within the next few baskets, but the one that stood out was having my husband make a basket. You must understand a few things about Adam: 1. He is pretty much asnomic to a lot of things unless they stink. 2. He likes to still act like a 12 year old boy sometimes. 3. He really leans to the fruity side. I pulled him into the closet (where he thought we had an "appointment" and promptly got excited) but then I set him straight and begged him to pick out some tarts for me to melt. As I held out the basket for him to fill he spun around and farted into it. Really. Smirked over his shoulder and said "there, it's filled." Spun around in a full circle and repeated the process. "Now it's really full." I can't make these things up guys. This is my life. I laughed and then begged again. He huffed and sat cross legged and began to "smell" the tarts (while not opening the bags mind you) and then popped a few in there. He refused the bakery drawer due to it smelling like fall and then refused some other scents because they smelled like Christmas. I ended up with a repeat from the last basket and mostly fruity. He appears to favor The Bathing Garden and Glitterati. So without further ado... I present the Adam Johnson melting basket. By the way he did moan about the names of a lot of these. He just doesn't understand :-)

CFTKR- Summer Strawberry Taffy (the repeat, but I don't mind as I love it)
CFTKR- Driftwood and Sea Salt
LSC- Pink Sugar Melons
Glitterati- White Tea & White Clouds
Glitterati- Cotton Candy Honeydew Watermelon Spritzer
Glitterati- County Fair
TBG- Serendipity Cream Pie
TBG- Marie Antoinette's Boudoir
TBG- Tunnel of Love
TBG- Sleepy
TBG- Calypso

If you would like any of these reviewed, please leave a comment below!

I mentioned a crazy, rough couple of weeks. I had debated on whether or not to mention it here as I didn't really talk about it other than in person or in private chats to a few friends and family, but what the heck. This is my blog and it did impact it a bit. I was let go from my job at the middle school and it hit me hard. I had indeed had some struggles there but on the whole I love the kids and had planned on returning for the next school year. I was a huge ball of stress, anger, sadness, shame and despair for several days.

As someone with faith can I just take a moment here to tell you what a bitter pill it can be to take and hear that it's ok that this door closed, a better one will open, everything happens for a reason. Gosh. So hard. And I hated hearing it. And I railed against it. I wanted to mourn. To have someone rage right along with me. But I did it alone while my loved ones tried to lift me up. And they did. I eventually saw above the sea of tears that fell spontaneously and incessantly that it would be alright. I would find a new job. I would come to terms with this heartbreak. It was only a set back. If I sound like I was over reacting from losing a job, maybe I was, but it blindsided me. I have never been fired. Maybe it was pride, maybe it was surprise. Either way it hit hard. And it was my experience.

 I did get a new job. Thanks to a kind friend who sent me towards an opening. God did close that door I was familiar with... and another opened. And more chapters will turn and more heart ache will come. Hopefully I can deal with it more gracefully next time. Maybe I will float with the tides easier. Or maybe I will still care too much. Expect too much. And feel too much. That is alright as well. As long as I can get above that water line. Thank you for the kind words and love I was given during that hard time. I really and truly appreciate it. You are now chatting with a 9 to 12 year old Montessori assistant teacher at a new school. I am excited to start an entirely new school year. After summer break of course. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Aroma M Perfumes: Geisha Vanilla Hinoki

This perfume sample was sent from Aroma M for an honest review.

Giesha Vanilla Hinoki is the newest addition to Aroma M's evocative Geisha line. Featuring notes of: Moroccan vanilla, hinoki (or cypress), bergamot, clove, cardamom, nutmeg, cedarleaf, lavender, leather, patchouli, amyris and cedarwood. 

Wild sweet oranges and tea from the orient, softly spiced and infused with flavor of vanilla bean pods. The sweet come hither nuances peel off to reveal a heart of lavender, medicine for the soul, accompanied by greenery from the cedar and cypress intertwining. Spiced oranges with age and vanilla velvet never disappear but continue to weave through the tale until the leather and woods appear. The orange strays but vanilla stays, lingering with the patchouli and earth base. 

A beautifully rendered vanilla centric fragrance that speaks more of the woods and spice east origin than a sugared version from the west. Sophisticated, exotic and sensual. A spray parfum is $90 and the oil roll-on is $60. Do you enjoy vanilla fragrances? What types of vanillas do you adore?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Box From South Korea and Tea Light Warmers

Liz at Furianne sent me a box of awesomeness from her current home in South Korea. She had shown these amazing tea light warmers that she found over there and I offered to pay her to grab me a couple but she is so very kind and sent them as a gift. <3 One did arrive banged up but my husband Gorilla Glued it back together as much as we could and I think I may do some type of decorative painting to cover the crack more. Make it look spiffy again. I hope it holds when warmed but we will see. 

I am mega excited about these sheet masks. We all know by now I am a sheet mask fiend. I used and loved the MediHeal Tea  Tree mask this past weekend. It provided a soothing and relaxing experience. The Black Mask looks intriguing!

I know I adore My Beauty Diary but have not tried the aloe version. Liz says she loves it and I am sure I will too.

These are face masks/scrubs I believe. The texture looks grainy on the images I researched. Very stoked to use these puppies.

Stunning compact mirror that I will be using during travel. I love Sandhill Cranes and these are gorgeous, shimmering with mother-of-pearl.

My super cute new tea light warmer! Actually, my only one since my Yankee one fell and crashed to the ground a while back. The minty aqua matches my living room perfectly. The bowl is pretty deep and at an angle. It looks like a little piece of art. I love love love it. 

Thank you so much Liz and I really appreciate this box and the warmers. I hope we can swap again before you leave. If there is anything you are hankering for, let me know! 

Do you use a tea light warmer? How much wax do you put in? Where did you get it? Have you used any of these masks before? Any favorites?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Aftelier: Chef's Essence Sprays in Chocolate and Bergamot

Mandy Aftel builds a bridge to span the gap between scent and taste in a way that only a master natural perfumer with the tools at hand could. Aftelier Chef's Essences are single note high quality essences or absolutes that come in drop and spray form to add to foods, drinks and desserts. Rose, fir needle, frankincense, violet, lavender, magnolia can all make magic with your taste buds if you crave the exotic, or even a superb flash of strawberry, coriander, saffron, spearmint or apple if concentrated comfort is the desire. I purchased two sprays and two absolutes. Today is all about the sprays. 

Chocolate ($22) seemed like a no-brainer for me and it certainly has found itself to be a staple in my home. I intended it for use in some exotic dish, perhaps a rich mole or marinade. But so far it is an every day work horse that turns the mundane into indulgent. I spray it on top of vanilla bean Haagen-Dazs, into my morning cup of coffee, my afternoon chai tea. The absolute imparts a dark chocolate experience without bitterness and with a clarity and translucence that is sublime. I almost want to spray it on my skin it smells so incredible; coffee bean depth, cocoa nib duskiness, woody vanilla bean pod tones all fuse into this chocolate absolute. The alcohol content lends just a touch of boozy liqueur delight. I may still attempt to use it in an actual recipe but if I never get that far, I will not regret it one bit. It serves me well just adding a spritz of dimension to my every day consumption. (No, I don't eat Haagen-Dazs every day... or do I?). I can also tell this will last me a good long while despite my frequent use, it comes in a 30 ml glass bottle.

Bergamot ($16) Essential Oil spray piqued my interest. This "wild harvest" bergamot adds a peppery aged lemon citrus aroma and taste to foods or drinks. As the chocolate, I envisioned fancy creations using this beauty but those dreams have yet to materialize. Instead I have sprayed it on various cold salad type meals with excellent results. An easy lunch recipe I fell in love with, I drained and rinsed chick peas, added minced garlic, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, sea salt and a spray of bergamot. Instant light lunch with an exotically fresh aroma. This also adds citrus airiness to steamed rice, salad greens and Caprese salad. Mandy does warn that the citrus oils do need to be refrigerated to maintain freshness, and even then they will only last months and not indefinitely like her other essences. 

If I could not only have a spice cupboard but an essence cupboard too, I would. And maybe I will work toward that. I did buy the lavender and frankincense oils to bake and make candy with so do look out for those in a Cooking Cove post. Would these look like something you would be interested in experimenting with? What essences strike your fancy? What would you create or enhance with the chocolate or bergamot?

Friday, May 20, 2016

Scent Trunk: Custom Fragrance Subscription

This Scent Trunk box was provided free for an honest review.

Scent Trunk has really amped up the perfume subscription game as of late. They re-branded, as we saw last time, offer new and exciting fragrances, as well as some pretty great deals. Like a free trial. You do have to cover the $4.95 shipping cost. The subscription is $18 per month and includes three 2ml spray vials of fragrance based off of your scent profile.

Scent Trunk also has a rewards program for referals and donates 1.5% of all sales to the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation.

I updated my scent profile recently and I can see that it paid off. I love each of these scents.

Perfect Gardenia by Sarah Horowitz- Notes include: Gardenia, green notes, vanilla, musk.
Narcotic, powdery gardenia unfolds under the late afternoon sun. Green accords akin to sweetgrass weave and tangle around the bloom. A veil descends, casting the white blossom into softness, plush, downey and dulcet. As it dries down and the base notes emerge, it was as if the gardenia was worn right on the skin the whole time. Shadows of the scent linger, nuzzling a sweet floral musk into your flesh. $100

New York 1955 By 4160 Tuesdays- Notes include: Candy floss, raspberries, rose, violet, musk, vanilla, ambergris.
Wild raspberries and live roses ramble and tumble out at first spray. Over time they ripen and fall off the bushes then mix with silken cotton candy, Choward's Violet Mints and rose flavored Necco Wafers. This lovely floral candy violet heart lasts long enough to really enjoy it and revel in it. Eventually, the candies are cleared off the skin to reveal the softly smouldering ambergris and vanilla musk, a comforting ending to a long day of indulgence. $100

Evening Edged in Gold by Ineke- Notes include: Osmanthus, plum, Angel's Trumpet, saffron, cinnamon, Midnight Candy flower, leather, woodsy notes.
A phantom fragrance that slighters just out of grasp when trying to pin it down. Osmanthus opens the scent, sweet, soft and regal wearing the slightly purple hue of the tart plum skin. Saffron wafts up, so distinct and pungent from the floral bouquet. Creamy, yet somehow spicy and peppery, leather and woods surround the exotic and royal flowers. This is a scent for beautiful evenings, cherished moments and dressing up. $95.

Of the three I would be hard pressed to pick just one. And I will happily wear each of these scents any time. I actually wore New York 1955 to an interview yesterday. Something to perk me up and put a smile on my face. I love all three for very different occasions. New York 1955 is a great mood lifter, Perfect Gardenia is a great summer beach scent and Evening Edged in Gold holds promises of romantic experiences in store.

Have you tried Scent Trunk yet? Don't wait too long, as you really can't beat $4.95 for such high quality scents during their free trial period. Which of these speaks to you?